“Never, never, never, never give up.”
Last night I was on a run with my 26 year old daughter, Lisa. We set our sights on a 4 mile route, a distance that was definitely a stretch for me, (not so much for her.) Midway through our run, I was slowing down, huffing and puffing. I wondered how I would find the motivation to keep going and finish the run.
Thinking about finishing, reminded me of a recent blog post I saw on Harvard Business Review: How to Become a Great Finisher. What could I draw from the research on “finishing” and motivation that would help me finish strong?
The author of the post, Heidi Grant Halvorson, is a motivational psychologist. She shares the research describing how people pursuing goals were affected by focusing on either how far they had already come (to-date thinking) or what was left to be accomplished (to-go thinking). People routinely use both kinds of thinking to motivate themselves. For example, a marathon runner may choose to think about the miles already traveled or the ones that lie ahead. (I could relate to that example.) A dieter who wants to lose 30 pounds may try to fight temptation by reminding themselves of the 20 pounds already lost, or the 10 left to go.
So what was the affect of each different type of thinking? Is it better to focus on the 2.5 miles I’ve already run or the 1.5 miles I have left to go?
What the researchers found was that “too much to-date thinking, focusing on what you've accomplished so far, will actually undermine your motivation to finish rather than sustain it..... Often a premature sense of accomplishment takes over and we begin to slack off.”
“If, instead, we focus on how far we have left to go (to-go thinking), motivation is not only sustained, it’s heightened. Fundamentally, this has to do with the way our brains are wired. To-go thinking helps us tune in to the presence of a discrepancy between where we are now and where we want to be. When the human brain detects a discrepancy, it reacts by throwing resources at it: attention, effort, deeper processing of information, and willpower.”
Ok then. I focused on 1.5 more miles to go. And I finished strong.
As you can imagine, this simple strategy, focusing on “to-go thinking” rather than “to-date” thinking, is applicable in all sorts of business and personal situations. Audit engagements, legal cases, goal completion are just a few that come to mind.
What do you think? How do you motivate yourself to “finish strong”? How do you motivate your team to finish strong? Do you focus on “to-go” thinking or “to-date” thinking?
To your success,